Today’s updated Apple Headquarters Spaceship campus plans include a roof made almost entirely out of solar cells, according to details released today. With a building as large as Apple’s, that puts it in the top corporate solar installations in the world and the biggest in the US.  The current title holder is the 4.26 MW system in Edison New Jersey and another being built by ToysRus in sunny NJ is rated 5.38MW


From today’s plans

From today’s plans, we can estimate the roof surface area to be over 750,000 square feet.  Assuming (conservatively) 2/3rds of that, or 500,000 square feet of that is utilized for solar, that gives Apple close to a 5MW installation on the amin building alone. On average or as a general “rule of thumb” modern photovoltaics (PV) solar panels will produce up to 10 watts per square foot of solar panel area.  Since Cupertino is generally favorable in terms of weather and Apple will obviously use the latest Solar technology developed in the coming years, that could give Apple over 5,000,000 Watts of power to play with.  Additionally, Apple has a few other buildings on campus that could be outfitted with solar roofs. The plans list a photovoltaic roof canopy of 320,000 sq.ft. just on the parking building.

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To put that into perspective, that can power almost a million 6W AppleTVs.  As a comparison, Google’s current solar allocation is about 1.6MW.

Since 2007 the GooglePlex has featured a series of solar panels, covering the rooftops of eight buildings and two solar carports capable of producing 1.6 megawatts of electricity. At the time of installation Google believed it to be the largest in the United States among corporations. The panels provide the power needed for 30% of the peak electricity demand in their solar-powered buildings

Clearly, this won’t be enough power to power all of Apple’s HQ operations, but as Steve Jobs mentioned in his case to the Cupertino City council, Apple will be able to generate a lot of its own power and will run from an on-site power facility with the normal grid used as a backup.

“I think what we’re going to end up doing is making the energy center our primary source of power, because we can generate power with natural gas and other ways that can be cleaner and cheaper, and use the grid as our backup,” Jobs said. “We think that makes more sense.”

Apple also is building a 174 acre Solar plant at its Maiden NC data center facility.

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